Zumbly's Top 10 Coins of 2020

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by zumbly, Nov 28, 2020.

  1. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    So I'm jumping on the early reveal bandwagon, but I reckon that by putting out my list now, I have at least a fair to decent chance of persuading myself that I don't need to buy a̶n̶y̶ many more coins for the rest of the year. Also, let's just wrap up the whole of 2020 already!

    This year, I added fewer coins to my collection than any previous year. On the other hand, this Top 10 has been my costliest ever, thanks largely to one especially pricey piece that, in addition to being the most expensive coin I've ever purchased, cost about the same as all 10 coins in my 2019 list combined. Thankfully, not all of them hit my wallet hard, with the cheapest one on the list being part of a 4-coin group lot that was won for $55 (I would have paid more for just the one coin).

    Also notable for me is that for the first time, I don't have a single Roman Republican coin on the list, and the only one struck at the Rome mint at all wasn't actually made for circulation in Rome. I still consider myself a traditional generalist collector, but I'm definitely leaning more towards Greek and Roman Provincial these days. I see the trend continuing for myself, too, especially if I can continue to pick up tasty coins like the one below...

    10. TROAS, Dardanos. AR Obol.

    10 TROAS Dardanos - AR Obol Chicken n Waffles 4081.JPG

    Chicken n' waffles!! @TIF was the first to give this delicacy of Dardanos its lip-smacking name, and after she acquired hers last year, I'd been hankering after one to call my own. Mine is nowhere as nice as hers, but the way I see it, each example of this dishy type can be considered its own plate coin. :wacky:

    9. BITHYNIA, Herakleia Pontika. AE19.
    Ex William Stancomb Collection

    09 BITHYNIA Herakleia Pontika - AE19 Herakles CM ex Stancomb 4008 new.JPG

    A type duplicate of a coin that appears in my 2014 Top 10 list. Though this example has the bonus of being twice published (in SNG Stancomb as well as Stancomb's paper 'The Autonomous Bronze Coinage of Heraclea Pontica'), that wasn't what drew me to it. Instead, I was just really tickled that its obverse countermark, neatly placed over the portrait of an aged, bearded Herakles, was that of a youthful, clean-shaven Herakles... almost as if the demigod was afflicted by a curious case of the Benjamin Buttons. Fact about coin collecting: there are no silly reasons for collecting, but there sure are a whole lot silly collectors. :D

    8. CARACALLA. THRACE, Pautalia. AE29.

    08 Caracalla - Pautalia AE29 Nymph 4151.jpg

    This coin would have ranked higher if its surfaces were nicer (and also if it hadn't been such a pain to photograph). I think it's such a fantastic reverse type, though, portraying the nymph of the river Strymon surrounded by four small figures reaping the bounties of the land. The best part here is that the engraver helpfully spelled out in the accompanying legends exactly what these bounties were - BOTPY (grapes), CTAXY (grain), APΓY/POΣ (silver), and XPY/COC (gold). Perhaps the city was trying to attract settlers by advertising its natural wealth? If so, I'd give it full marks for the clarity of its marketing message on this coin.

    7. BRUTTIUM, Rhegion. AR Litra.
    Ex E.E. Clain-Stefanelli Collection

    07 BRUTTIUM Rhegion - AR Litra Hare ex Clain 3982.JPG

    Some day, I'd like to get one of those big Messana tetradrachms with the mule biga and hare to accompany the one on my little litra here. Both types were first struck by Anaxilas, who actually ruled Rhegion before he took over Messana. Yet, when we think of a prancing rabbit on a Greek coin, it's inevitably Messana we think of. That mine is one of the rare issues from Rhegion makes it, to my mind, a coin that can be complemented but not replaced by its larger more impressive brethren. I'll take the opportunity here to also thank Ms Clain-Stefanelli for collecting some truly interesting, under the radar coins!

    6. COMMODUS. THRACE, Pautalia. AE24.

    06 Commodus - Pautalia AE24 Glykon 4016.JPG

    This one's like a Ripley's Believe It or Not exhibit on a coin. The snake depicted on the reverse is Glykon, a phoney deity invented around AD 160 by the self-declared prophet Alexander of Abonoteichus. Alexander apparently dressed up a large tame snake and claimed it was an oracle, charging people a drachm and two obols for prophecies and medical advice. The scam was incredibly successful - in one year, he had as many as 80,000 customers - garnering Alexander great fortune and political influence. The 2nd century satirist Lucian of Samosata wrote the story 'Alexander the False Prophet' about the cult of Glykon and its founder, and in it he claimed that Alexander had even persuaded the Emperor to issue a coin with the likeness of Glykon on it. Coins such as this one issued in Thrace, and others struck decades after Alexander's death, attest to the spread and surviving popularity of the worship of this weird, made-up god.

    5. KINGDOM OF MAURETANIA. Juba II & Cleopatra Selene II. AR Denarius.
    Ex Stein A. Evensen Collection

    05 MAURETANIA Juba II Cleo Selene - AR Denarius 4132.JPG

    I'd always wanted one of these rare portrait coins of Cleopatra Selene II, the daughter of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII, so this was a big score for me. History hasn't left us with many details of her life, but her coins always spark my imagination about what it must have been like for the last surviving Ptolemy, an orphan of the Hellenistic era, who was queen only by the grace of the Roman emperor who had brought about the deaths of her parents. I also think about how Augustus might have felt looking at one of her coins, almost rebelliously inscribed in Greek with the name of Cleopatra, some even flaunting the royal symbols of Egypt. Perhaps after momentarily seeing in her portrait the faces of his hated but by then long defeated nemeseis, the victor of Actium might then have chuckled smugly before setting the coin aside, knowing that the spirited but ultimately powerless young queen in Mauretania would be no threat to him at all.

    4. TITUS. AR Cistophorus.
    Ex Stein A. Evensen Collection; ex Harry N. Sneh (“Sierra”) Collection

    04 Titus - AR Cistophorus Capitoline Temple 4131.JPG

    I'm no Flavian specialist, so I hope my reasons for liking this Titus cistophorus as much as I do are sufficient (let me know if I've missed out anything, guys). Firstly, at 10.8g and 26.5mm, it's just a damn pleasing chunk of good Roman silver. It also has the bold and handsome portrait of Titus that I'd been wanting for my collection. For a Flavian coin, its pedigree to Harry Sneh's collection is impeccable, a fact I didn't realize until @David Atherton pointed it out. It's a rare and historically interesting type, commemorating the restoration of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, Rome's most important temple. And last but not least... what about those crazy snake-legged giants in the pediment!

    3. CILICIA, Soloi-Pompeiopolis. AE26.

    03 CILICIA Soloi - AE26 Chrysippus Aratus 4168b.jpg

    Two crusty old guys on a gnarly Provincial, or a rare and rather remarkable celebration of philosophy and poetry on an ancient coin? Well, both, and so totally up my alley. :) I posted a thread a short while ago that goes further into who Chrysippus and Aratus of Soloi were, but to boil it down its essence, even though these two weren't emperors or gods, I think it can be argued that for their contributions to thought, reason, and knowledge, they're more worthy of numismatic immortality than the great majority of power-seeking purple-togaed dudes whose coins we do collect.

    2. ANTINOUS. EGYPT, Alexandria. AE Drachm.

    02 Antinous - AE Drachm Rider 3980 new.jpg

    In contrast to Chrysippus and Aratus on the previous coin, Antinous here might have done little more than look pretty and die young. The story of Hadrian's love for him, and his unprecedented deification after death, however, is one of Roman history's most fascinating and enduring. As Royston Lambert put it in his book, 'Beloved and God': "After his two brief decades of human life, this young man had just attained immortality and, with it, at least another two millenia of posthumous and turbulent notoriety." A coin of Antinous is one that I've wanted ever since I started collecting ancients, but at that time, the idea of spending that much on a single coin made it seem an unattainable goal. This one certainly wasn't cheap, but IMHO, it could easily have gone for more. Obviously, I'm glad it didn't!

    1. CRETE, Gortyna. AR Stater.

    01 CRETE Gortyna - AR Stater Europa Bull 3981 new2.jpg

    I imagine that when most collectors think about pricier Greek silver coins, these staters of Gortyna depicting Europa seated in the branches of a tree don't immediately come to mind. I've always loved how distinctive and unusual the type is, though, and I fell in love with this particular example the minute I saw it. That was 5 years ago; I was underbidder on that occasion, and it was the one auction loss that really kicked me in the proverbial gut. Sure, there are others out there in higher grade struck from dies with better technical execution, but this coin's unique combination of wear, toning, and style just made it the most alluring of its type for me. The next few years of searching just cemented the thought that this would be the ultimate "one that got away", so when it came up for auction again earlier this year, I had to rub my eyes and do a double take. My coin budget was at a historical low, but I promised myself (and my wife) that I'd sell as many coins as required to justify the acquisition. This time around, the coin gods decided to give me a break, and for exactly one increment above my 2015 max bid, I won it - my favorite coin of 2020, certainly in the Top 5 of all-time for many years to come, without qualification the most beautiful coin in my collection, and, uhm... my second favorite ever stater of Gortyna? :shame:

    Thanks for reading, folks. Keep those lists coming, and here's wishing everyone a better year in and out of Coinland in 2021!
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2020
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  3. Nvb

    Nvb Well-Known Member

    Excellent top 10!
    That Gortyna stater is special.
    I remember when it came to auction and thinking to myself how marvellous and distinctive a coin it is, with just surreal toning to boot.
    I’m glad I opted not to bid in the end.. it found a good home.

    But wait.. it’s only your ‘second’ favourite stater of Gortyna?
    zumbly likes this.
  4. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Glad you asked, and thank you for not bidding on this one! :D My favorite wins no points in the looks category but is special for a different reason. I suspect it would not be preferred by most, but it made the top of my list in 2016, and is really the one coin from my collection I would keep if I had to part with the rest.
  5. Only a Poor Old Man

    Only a Poor Old Man Well-Known Member

    I can't find words to describe how much I like the Gortyna stater. Sometimes the right combination of wear and toning can make a coin look like a painting, and this coin fits this description to the letter :happy:

    zumbly likes this.
  6. akeady

    akeady Well-Known Member

    Great year for coins, Zumbly, and that Gortyna stater looks so modern in style! Super. It reminds me of a papal medal of Paul VI I have somewhere.

    DonnaML, zumbly and Gavin Richardson like this.
  7. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    While I 'prefer' #7 and #8, I suppose a lot of that is the sad realization that your #1 purchase for this year is not going to cause you to turn loose the Best of All Times Gortyna. While I do like the coin it is almost as pleasing to say I know the person who owns it and that he is exactly the right person to be entrusted with its care. In general, all of your coins shown over the years make sense to me and there are very, very few collectors I have known with whose taste I have agreed as consistently. Thank to Coin Talk I have been able to know someone a world away whom I will never see in person but that is an honored friend in our hobby.

    P.S. What did you have to sell to keep your promise to your wife? This is a coin that might have been a bargain at twice the price BUT STILL it was not the definition of cheap.

    While I wait for the hare with mule biga to come my way, I have consolation in the Messana litra and a 0.1g. Rhegion hexas (1/6 of your #7) with lion scalp. g20380bb2039.jpg g10310bb1988.jpg
  8. gogili1977

    gogili1977 Well-Known Member

    Great coins and as always a very informative description. My favorites are Gortyna stater and Titus cistophorus.
    zumbly likes this.
  9. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    A very nice group @zumbly , my favorites are probably #6,5, 2, and 1 (hard to choose among those four). On #9, the countermark looks like he has a smaller head growing out of his shoulder, which of course made me think of the 1959 film "The Manster":
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  10. Gavin Richardson

    Gavin Richardson Well-Known Member

    That Europa coin looks like it could be a modern sculpture. Distinctive. Pleasing.
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  11. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Yes! It's definitely reminiscent of a painting and medal for me too. And out of its own time, in that sense. @akeady, I'd love to see that Paul VI if you have a pic.

    Hah! I'd love to see your movie collection. :D

    Thanks, Doug. There isn't another person that I've learnt more about this hobby from, and honestly, I enjoy my coins and appreciate those of others so much better for knowing you.
    I kept my promise! 24 coins got the chop, including 12 Gordies that shall remain unpictured (bye bye, silver roaches!). The other 12 are below. I know that one found a new home with a member here.
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  12. akeady

    akeady Well-Known Member

    Hi @zumbly - I found that I had it on Tantalus - shown below - I guess I was reminded of the folds of the cloaks on the reverse when seeing your Gortyna. With its toning, wear and maybe worn dies to start with, your Gortyna stater looks quite art nouveau and very attractive and striking - glad you captured it at the second attempt.


    Obviously, 1970 is a bit recent for this group, but it is struck for a Roman Pontifex Maximus and the apostles on the reverse are from the 1st century AD.

  13. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Some very neat coins @zumbly. I would have them all in my collection, but I suppose my favorite is the Antinous.
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  14. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

    Super group!...Favourites for me are that sweet portrait of Antinous and the Selene II......
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  15. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Yes, the die was definitely worn as well. I wonder what a strike from it in a fresh state would look like, but I'm not at all sure I would actually like it better. Thanks for posting that medal. You posted another (architectural) one in another thread some time ago that I found very attractive too. If time and resources ever allow me to dip my toe into something other than ancients, I think it would very likely be medals.
  16. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Wow! What a year, @zumbly! All of them are outstanding! I would have to say my favorites are the Antínoös AE drachm and the Cleopatra Selene II/Juba II denarius. These are rare and historically important figures from Roman history and examples of these coins have long eluded me. I also like the Glykon from Pautalia, the "fruits of Pautalia" ad campaign, and the chicken and waffles. Oh, and the Titus cistophorus and the Chrysippus and Aratus of Soloi-Pompeiopolis.

    Ah heck, I like 'em all!!
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  17. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic Supporter

    Gosh, what a year-end list @zumbly! #4 and #2 (in that order) are my favourites.
    zumbly likes this.
  18. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Man, you get ALL the great coins, @zumbly . I would take them ALL. The Gortyna and especially the Bruttium stand out for me. But, all of them are fantastic. Each has a great story that I really like. CONGRATS!!! Super envious!
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  19. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Thanks, RC. I hope the ones with your name on it will find their way to you soon!

    Thanks, Brian, but I still don't have a Marsic denarius yet. ;) Here's hoping 2021 will be good to you and yours!
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  20. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    You will get one! They are pretty cool History to have.
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  21. Justin Lee

    Justin Lee I learn by doing Supporter

    When I was scrolling through the list and seeing your #2, I couldn't imagine what would've pushed Antinous down from a deserved #1 spot. Then I saw your #1 and read your comment for it... It truly is a beautiful rendering of the coin and I can see why you were haunted by being the underbidder. Congrats on finally snagging it, Z!

    Your Titus temple is wonderfully full and detailed. And your Juba II... It's been a recent addition to my "some day I'll be able to afford one" list, as I've been turned on to his coinage from the MAA book.

    Happy 2020 and he's too a better 2021!
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